Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pet peeves

Nobody sent me this meme, but I found it on Terry Teachout's arts blog, so I'm gonna do it because I'm feeling peevish.

Grammatical pet peeve. The same as Teachout's: misplaced apostrophes. I remember my eighth-grade English teacher was very disappointed with a crop of papers because so many of us inserted a malicious apostrophe in the word "its" used as a possessive pronoun. If I learned the proper use of apostrophes in eighth grade, how come so few college graduates know? Almost as irksome is the habit some families have of putting a sign that says "The Smith's" in front of their vacation homes. Stop it, please. Just stop.

Runner-up: the phrase "back in the day." What day? Today's a day. This phrase requires a relative clause.

Household pet peeve. Cupboards and drawers that are open, because somebody, I won't name names, doesn't close them. This was more annoying in Berkeley, because the corners of the kitchen cabinets were right at my eye level and they had nasty old nails and things sticking out of them and I was afraid I would get tetanus and die.

Arts and entertainment pet peeve. When I can't read a book anymore because it's been turned into a movie and all the editions in the bookstore say "NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE EVENT!" on the cover, so everyone who sees me reading it will know I wasn't cool enough to read it before it became a movie.

Liturgical pet peeve. I'm not sure I'm entitled to one, seeing as I've hardly been Catholic long enough to accumulate them. Yet I have several! First one: There are not enough Latin masses. The nearest Latin mass is in Richmond. Boo. I want more Latin. Next: I sing in the choir because the music is so chirpy that I really would rather concentrate on hitting the alto notes than singing about peace and justice flowing like ketchup on a bun while all the women and men build the city of God and tell their stories. On eagles' wings. Next: priests who say the mass too fast. This is the body and blood of CHRIST, yo. Recognize.

(That was not a Gizoogle hiccup; I really said that.)

Driving pet peeve. (This is not in the original, but I'm adding it.) In Virginia: people who don't turn from the turn lanes, rather blocking two lanes simultaneously because, I don't know, they're annoying. In the Northwest: people who drive in the passing lane despite the fact that they're going slower than the flow of traffic. I love you all, but seriously. Justin and I were having fits the last time we drove through Oregon and Washington. He's from the East Coast and he doesn't understand you like I do. I find this habit of yours annoying, yet quaint; he just finds it annoying.

Wild card. This is not fair to people who can't spell my name, but I don't like that people can't spell my name. It's not Juliette (which at least is a real name), or Julliet, or Juleit, or Juilet, or anything else that isn't even phonetically correct. Do people not read Romeo and Juliet anymore? I guess not. And don't even get me started on my last name, the one I share with Justin. Why can't people spell that, you're wondering? Well, I don't know either.

And there's my pet peeve that if you send this meme to six friends of yours in the next six hours, you'll find a four-leaf-clover in your armpit or something cute like that. Just do it if you want.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

If you want even the slimmest hope I will read your spam mail...

...the subject line should not be "bowel gangrene due flow."

For future reference.

Prayers requested...

Justin's dad called us yesterday and told us he has an acoustic neuroma, a benign brain tumor that is affecting his hearing. He's having it removed soon, and it's unlikely to be life-threatening, but he might lose some hearing in his ear as a result of the surgery.

So it's okay, more or less, but kind of scary, especially because his mother had a brain tumor several years ago that she was told would likely be fatal but very fortunately turned out not to be. We're hoping for a smooth surgery and a speedy recovery.

EDIT: I wanted to clarify (not that anyone has asked yet) that it was Justin's dad's mother, not Justin's mother, who had the brain cancer a few years ago. Justin's mom had melanoma when Justin was a baby. Just so we're all clear on who had what kind of cancer. So pray also, while you're at it, that any children we may have get the non-cancer kind of genes.

The Mel Gibson thing

I was thinking of posting something to this effect on a Catholic blog I read sometimes, but I decided that would lead to no good, and here I can be more honest anyway.

So Justin and I were on the BART heading back to the airport the first time I flew out to visit him in Berkeley. There was this drunk Eastern European guy ranting loud obscenities about Jews. We were only on the train for one stop, from Ashby to Macarthur, but I was bawling when we got onto the platform. And, yeah, I was leaving Justin, which was already depressing. But the incident really upset me.

I'm not a practicing Jew, as you all know, and ethnically I'm only a quarter Jewish--though it's my maternal grandmother, so I'm Jewish where it counts. Since my grandmother never really practiced and I wasn't really raised with any sort of Jewish identity, and since there's nothing about me that screams "I'M A JEW!" to the general public, I'm probably not entitled to take anti-Semitism as personally as I do. But I do.

So when people who are already sort of inclined to give Gibson a pass first react to reports of what he said about Jews when he was arrested for drunk driving by saying, "Oh, I don't believe he could say that," and then when he acknowledges and apologizes for what he said they say, "He's redeemed himself"--I know I'm suppose to forgive repentant sinners and everything, but if you'd excuse me, I'd like a moment to be angry.

Especially since this coincides rather unpleasantly with the (completely unrelated) shooting of six Jews in my hometown.

I've heard people suggest he was just really drunk. Well, I've heard he had a blood alcohol level of .12. Legal driving limit in California is .08, not that far off. I've been too drunk to drive on a number of occasions (Juliet's a lush! we always suspected), and still been fully in possession of my wits not only to know that I shouldn't be driving, but also not to go off on offensive paranoid rants about particular ethnic or religious groups, as far as I remember or have been told. Please notify me with a wine bottle upside the head if that changes.

Of course I don't know what he really thinks. I don't know what anyone but me thinks. I just know what people say and do. That's the only way you can judge someone's character.

I've never really been a fan of Gibson's movies and know I couldn't stomach The Passion of the Christ, and I've always vaguely felt he was a little to the right of loopy, so I don't have much invested in defending him anyway. I am a little unnerved how many people do. Especially Catholics. I don't over-impute anti-Semitism to the Catholic Church--it's clearly a phenomenon that transcends all cultures and religions and times--but I do think we need to acknowledge we have a rather spotty history in the area of Christian-Jewish relations, and hold our fellow believers accountable for their words and actions when they cause offense. If Gibson's apologized, that's very good, but there are still consequences for his actions, and one of those consequences is that I'm probably going to take more than 24 hours to hear about it, be offended, and get over it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

What the hell is going on in my hometown?

There's been a string of bizarre murders lately, now this:

Six people were shot - one fatally - this afternoon at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle by a man who told a witness he was upset about "what was going on in Israel."

Well, geez, so am I. I think this guy is actually upset about what's going on in Lebanon, but whatever.

The five people hospitalized were all women. One was 20 weeks pregnant. Another person (of undisclosed gender, as far as I can tell) is dead.

Seattle has a weird way of protesting:

1. People dress up as turtles to protest the WTO.
Reporter: Why are you dressed as turtles?
Turtle #1: I dunno. Why are we dressed as turtles?
Turtle #2: I dunno.

(I recall reading this in the Economist.)

Oh, and they destroy a Starbucks. That's going to win you sympathy in Seattle. Way to go.

2. Some dude goes to a mosque in north Seattle shortly after September 11 and like tries to set the sidewalk on fire, or something incompetent like that.

3. Some dude shoots a bunch of Jews in a city where there aren't a whole lot of Jews. I am the most Jewish person I know from Seattle, and it's just that my maternal grandmother is Jewish, so you get the idea.

What a weird city I'm from.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Adventures in marriage

1. We argue for two weeks about who's going to take the car in for an oil change. Determined to make Justin do it, because he's the one who just took it to New York and it's his turn anyway, I finally cave and take it with his assurance he will buy me a sparkly camera accessory (an off-shoe flash is a sparkly, right?). But they didn't have the replacement headlight we need. So for the next two weeks...

2. Conversation we have when Justin is asleep (he talks in his sleep sometimes):

Justin: [Muttered gibberish] You know? The way it is in a region. Kind of misty, you know?
Juliet: [not sure if or how to respond to this] Yeah...
Justin: Huh?!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


And actually relevant to my area of interest! From the Washington Post, and elsewhere:

Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker who spotted something while working in a bog.

The approximately 20-page book has been dated to 800-1000 A.D. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.

I am actually such a nerd to point out that a set of wax tablets from about 700 C.E., with some psalm verses copied on them as a student exercise, was found in a bog in Ireland around 1920, although I'm not sure that counts as a "document." This seems infinitely more interesting and enlightening.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

When Justin is gone...

For the first ten months we were married, Justin and I were never apart for more than maybe eight hours at a time. We spent every night in the same bed. I was so used to sleeping in my own room, in my own bed, before we got married, that I had no idea how easy it would be for me to sleep next to someone else. I used to be kind of an insomniac. I sleep so much better now than I did before we got married, and that's accounting for the occasional snoring, although Justin's not so bad in that respect.

Since that initial period, we've each gone on trips of a week or more without the other at least once, and Justin often goes to DC or NYC for a few days to see his friends. I like his friends, but since they mostly sit around in their apartments, watch extremely long subtitled movies about the Nazis or whatever, and talk about politics, I don't feel like I'm missing out on as much as if they were going out in the city--and come to think of it, I don't like going out, although I like the idea of it. So I usually stay home, although I've gone up to DC a few times.

I have a love/hate relationship with being at home by myself. I really liked living alone for the three years that I did; it's nice to be by myself, spend my time however I like, get things done without distraction (I cleaned a lot the last time Justin was in NYC), and cook things Justin doesn't like to eat, like anything with beans. On the other hand, I've gotten so used to sharing the bed that I have a hard time sleeping on my own. I get more nervous about strange noises than I ever did when I was living alone, although at least I can blame the cats when things go bump in the night. And of course I generally like having him around, because he's my husband and I love him and I love doing stuff with him. You know. That stuff that you thought I was talking about. And other stuff.

And sometimes I start thinking about old stuff. I was not very successful with boys before I met Justin. I never had a proper boyfriend. I always wanted one. In the long, long period before the light at the end of the tunnel, I never knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel, so I have spent the past four years in perpetual amazement that 1. I liked a guy 2. who liked me! 3. and bad things didn't happen! 4. and now we're married!, so when the cause of that happiness temporarily betakes himself to other venues, and I have long nights alone, it is easier to think about the days when I didn't know from experience that all this goodness was possible. Otherwise I don't think about it, unless I'm trying to sympathize with single friends, and since I have so few single friends anymore, it's just as well that I don't think about it.

This last time Justin was in NYC, we'd just spent a solid month and a half together on our road trip, and then at the lake house, so I think it was good for us both to get a little space for a while. But it is good when we are both at home again, sharing the same bed, snoring and sprawling and stealing the covers from each other.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Phoebe in action!

Sometimes, shutter lag works out for the best, purely by accident. I was trying to take a picture of Phoebe while she was lolling about on the floor. Mere moments later:

Pardon my cluttered living room floor. It was clean a week ago, I swear.

I finally got the battery cover fixed on my "old" (Christmas 2003) digital point-and-shoot camera. Justin's parents gave it to me before we were even married, because I had it on my Amazon wish list. I decided maybe I should put less expensive things on my wish list after that. The battery door cracked the day I got it, which ordinarily I would blame on myself for forcing it, but a minute of googling turned up other people who had the same issue with the older Kodak Easyshares, so I'm not alone. I'm glad I did it, because Justin took thousands of pictures out the car window on our trip, and let's just say that nobody can really take a high percentage of keepers out of a moving car, so I'd rather he just wear out the shutter on the older camera.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


This motel sign from Woodward, Oklahoma remains one of our favorite pictures from our road trip.

I am so smart. S-M-R-T. I mean, S-M-A-R-T.

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

I am the best U.S. citizen ever. Well, except for, like, Betsy Ross, and a bunch of other people.

Proctor: All right, here's your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?
Apu: Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter--
Proctor: Wait, wait... just say slavery.
Apu: Slavery it is, sir.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The loneliest road

Justin and I have driven Highway 50 through Nevada twice together, and he's done it twice in addition to that. The highway crosses a number of mountain ranges, including the one in this panorama, and between Fallon, rather near Reno as distances in Nevada go, and Ely, it passes through only a few small towns, each at least a good hour's drive from the next.

I don't like Nevada quite as much as Justin does, but I have to admit it's pretty, and the day we passed through in June, there were a lot of interesting clouds to fill my photos.

Still fiddling with the template...

I've lost track of how many times I've changed it. I've long been dissatisfied with Blogger's offerings, whose empty sidebars waste space and don't allow much room for large pictures. Since I like to post pictures here, I looked for something with a wider center column for posts, yet still retaining a sidebar for links and such (sorry, those'll be back soon), and this was the best I've found.

I haven't made the pictures larger yet, but I intend to. I'll probably have to link them from SmugMug, which is fine as long as I don't exceed my bandwith, and so far I'm in no danger of doing that.

Also, I kind of want the lines and links to be blue, not red. Help?

Friday, July 21, 2006


(In quotation marks as a song title, and lest you think I have something unusual to rejoice about, which I don't, but that would be nice, wouldn't it?)

A post over at Althouse alerted me to several online discussions about this song, originally written by Leonard Cohen, and covered by everyone and their uncle in the last few years. I first heard the version by Rufus Wainwright, which Heidi had on the Shrek soundtrack. Justin had the Jeff Buckley version, which is probably the most famous. We both found it moving--it makes us cry if we're in the right mood--and it became "our" song, insofar as we have a song, and insofar as it isn't really more depressing than romantic exactly. One of Justin's friends asked me what our song was and offered to sing it at our wedding, and I was like, "Ummm...."

The post links to a site with a bunch of versions of "Hallelujah," so I tried out a couple I hadn't heard. Leonard Cohen's original version flew under the radar for years after it was recorded, and, well, I can kind of see why. I like the piano accompaniment on the Wainwright and John Cale versions, although vocally I haven't decided whether I prefer one of those or Jeff Buckley's rendition. Buckley's seems slower and a little more contemplative, which I like.

After some searching, I also discovered that Over the Rhine has covered "Hallelujah" in their live performances, so I downloaded a couple of recordings. Now my life is complete! Well, unfortunately aren't as high quality as I'd like, but are pretty good. Though I'm not sure I like their version better than the others. I always think there are songs I'd love to hear Karin Bergquist sing, but their covers are never as good as their own songs.

Aside from being lovely musically, and lines where the music does exactly what the lyrics say...

it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth,
the minor fall, the major lift

(okay, I don't know much about music theory, but I know what fourths and fifths are, and I can guess about minor falls and major lifts)'s lyrically dense. For one thing, there are infinite redactions of the song, depending on what Cohen felt like singing when he went into a concert, although the later covers established a canonical version. Also it has the neat spiritual/erotic love thing going on. It strikes me as more erotic than spiritual for the most part, but it kind of depends who's listening and which version you're listening to, I guess.

The lyrics are probably why Justin likes it so much. I can listen to pretty much any garbage as long as it sounds pretty. This is why I'm not always in 100% agreement with the content of Indigo Girls songs, for example, but man, they're good singers and they're good together. Justin actually pays attention to lyrics, and will comment on a song we're listening to, and I'll say, "Huh?" because most of the time the words are a blur. (Which may be why I don't care that "someone's circling" in "All I Need is Everything" by Over the Rhine sounds like "someone's snerdly.") This may be why I cannot always fully appreciate the Song Poems, which deserve a post of their own, but I'll have to do some googling first.

Stop sign, take two

Unlike the picture below, this took only one click to create:

This reminds me of the pictures I used to draw as a kid where I colored a piece of paper a bunch of different colors, then painted over it in black, then drew a design on it with a paper clip. Or something like that. I don't remember the exact technique. I kind of want to do that again.

I love how the mushroom looks like it's smoking a cigarette. Or a joint. You know, because it's that kind of stop sign.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Stop sign near Taos

This is not how it came out of the camera (the original color version is in my road trip album on SmugMug). I fiddled with it for longer than any sane person ought to have done, but it was kind of fun.

Monday, July 17, 2006


This would be embarrassing, except that such an outcome is inevitable when three kids try to pile onto your tube.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Napping at the lake house

Do I have a foot fetish? At least for one set of feet.

Random thoughts on states

These are the states I haven't visited: Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont.

Which will be the last one I visit? I'd say Alaska, except I want to go there more than any of the others. The New England states would be easy to see in one road trip, perhaps even this fall. Maybe North Dakota? Poor, neglected North Dakota.

Will I be sad when I visit the last state and don't have any more new states to see? Or will I be more interested in exploring the ones I didn't experience very thoroughly? Or will I concentrate on collecting countries, or Canadian provinces?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Happy Bastille Day!

True story (many of you have heard it already):

My dad's pulp and paper mill company sells guillotines for chopping huge rolls of paper. One year when he had a day sponsorship for the local NPR station, he wanted a message that went something like, "James Brinkley Company, designer and manufacturer of guillotines" to run on Bastille Day. This caused some alarm. I don't remember if they ran it or not in the end.

They would probably mispronounce it anyway. The kind that cut paper are GILLotines. Paper mill operators can't be bothered with pronouncing French words as the French do, and come to think of it, neither can I. I know there is a consistent pronunciation system for French, but I never learned it, and frankly a language that has so many letters that aren't pronounced seems dreadfully inefficient to me. English is bad enough in that regard, but you don't have to devote an entire government bureau to preserving so many needless consonants.

(Sorry if you took French in high school or something and really like it. Anyone who did is free to bash German in the comments. It's hard not to, but I still like it better than French because even if the words are six pages long, I know how to pronounce them.)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Where I've been

Not all on this last trip, of course (we hit 30 states):

create your own personalized map of the USA
or write about it on the open travel guide

Only seven states left. My apologies to the ones I've missed.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

See the lovely lake

We got back from our road trip the afternoon of July 1 and just gave ourselves enough time to do laundry and pay bills before heading out again the next day to Justin's family's lake house on the Virginia/North Carolina border.

Here's some math:
Justin and I
plus Justin's parents and six of his siblings (Whitney got back from England on Wednesday)
plus Justin's grandparents, our hosts
plus all eight of Justin's cousins, and one girlfriend
plus three uncles and two aunts

added up equals 26 people in or near one house!

Two subsidiaries of the clan camped or slept in a Winnebago, relieving the rest of us who slept inside, but we got really friendly with the sofa beds until enough people left that we got our own bedroom. Various grandchildren of all ages sprawled on sofas and foam pads in the living room.

When I first met Justin's family, I was so overwhelmed that I curled up fetus-like in our bedroom (which of course was usually another sibling's bedroom) for a few hours while Justin was chauffering his brothers around Ithaca. After a couple of Christmases with the entire clan, and of course other occasions, I'm a lot more used to the chaos, which actually isn't that bad considering the number of children involved. It helps that Justin's youngest brother is six and his youngest cousin is five, so everyone's out of diapers, speaking in complete sentences, and capable of being somewhat disciplined, and the average age is higher than it was a few years ago. There were no crises this week, no screaming matches, little whining, even a surprisingly low rate of playful shrieking.

I'm also starting to figure out how I fit into all this. I've always felt welcome in the family, but a little awkward around the kids; I come from a much smaller, quieter family, more bookish and less athletic, so I'm not always at ease around nine-year-olds who are into sports and stuff. But I'm learning how to relate to everyone, which is a combination of time, the establishment of Things to Do with the kids (I'm not into watersports, but I'll take photographs of them, draw pictures, play games, and other more sedentary activities), and their growth and change over the past few years, which is fun to watch. I'm looking forward to seeing them grow up and go to college and get jobs and get married and have kids, not that Justin and I have even done all those things yet.

It was also wonderful just to relax and not do anything. I woke up earlyish the first few days I was there, I'm not sure why, but if Justin wasn't up yet I'd just grab a cup of coffee and go down to the gazebo or the hammock with a book. The kids spent the morning and late afternoon tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and swimming; during "noon break," from twelve to three (they are fair-skinned and prone to sunburn) everyone came in to eat lunch, play games, or do whatever could be done in the shade. Meals were, obviously, a production, but amazingly there was always food and drink and space enough for everyone.

We celebrated our second anniversary (!) with the entire family. Justin's mom wrote "JS squared Happy Anniversary #2" on our as-yet-unwashed car. The kids, of course, wrote "Wash Me."

The great thing is, we get to do this again next month, and Ronel is coming to hang out with his "uncles" too! Only there won't be quite as many people there. I'm rather fond of the chaos now.